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The Catholic Defender recalls Fr. Giacomo Capoverdi Investigation of the Hermit of Loreto

Fr. Giacomo Capoverdi, recounts how he once met this holy man who living in Loreto. He says that some seventeen years earlier, a friend of his -- an Italian American doctor named Claudio Curran -- told him that he just had to get up to Loreto on his upcoming trip to Rome to speak with a holy man there by the name of Tom Zimmer.

He said this "hermit", an American layperson, had left everything behind in the US to live in Loreto as a kind of penitent, or hermit. He added that he was very prayerful and had written a book, “Pieta'” which had sold upwards of “ten million copies.”

Fr. Capoverdi recounts in his video that after arriving in Rome, he indeed took a train up to Loreto and went inside the basilica where he found an elderly gentleman, hunched over, sitting on the floor next to the Holy House in prayer. He sat down next to him, introduced himself in English and had a very spiritual conversation.

So then Fr. Capoverdi fast forwards until a few weeks ago when he was talking to his old friend, the doctor, who said that back in the 1980s, Tom Zimmer had told him (the doctor) that he had received a “premonition” and that he (Tom) believed that a certain man would lead America back to God. And that man would be none other than Donald J. Trump.

“The millionaire playboy from New York?” asks the incredulous doctor. “Yes,” responds Tom. In fact, Zimmer was so convinced that Donald Trump would become a great spiritual leader of America that he wrote his name on a brick and had it placed in the reconstruction of St. Peter’s Holy Door after the Jubilee in order that Trump would receive blessings from the many Masses that would be said in the Vatican.

Fr. Capoverdi says that he wanted to get this message out after he saw Donald Trump’s wife begin a political rally in Florida by beginning with the Our Father.

Now, I have to admit that my first impression after watching this video was somewhere between skepticism and suspicion. Although I believe that God reveals his plans and messages in advance to his prophets, it is not always clear who his prophets are, or, when people speak as “prophets” whether or not they are true or false. Further, my reaction was the same as the incredulous doctor: "Preisdent Trump will lead people back to God?" I thought to myself with eyebrow raised.

Nonetheless, a number of people asked me if I would look into Tom Zimmer, and so I did.

The Holy House of Loreto (the house of Mary of Nazareth) was transported to Italy in the 13th century likely by Crusaders returning to Europe, although tradition attributes the "Translation" miraculously to angels. Since the 1920s, the basilica has been staffed by the Capuchin Franciscan friars. Due to my membership in the Third Order of St. Francis, my work organizing pilgrimages, and my own prayer and Mass attendance at the Holy House, I know a number of friars and personnel who staff the basilica. And so I began my research.

First, I ran into a jovial, 90-year-young friar named Fr. Mario whom I’ve known for years. He was in Loreto for a week-long retreat, though he lives not in Loreto, but in the mother house in Camerino where his order began in the sixteenth century. Since all the Capuchins of this province come to Loreto often, as it is one of their most important churches and communities, I asked Fr. Mario if he knew anything about Tom Zimmer.

Fr. Mario said he recalled an American man who prayed in the basilica. But he added that over the years, there have been many such “penitents” or “oblates” who come here for weeks, months, or years at a time, and he did not know much about him personally.

He said the friars all knew of him and referred to him simply as “L’Americano” (the American), and found him to be courteous and polite, if not a little “particular.” They were aware that Tom attended upwards of four or five Masses each day and that he spent the rest of his time praying in and around the Holy House. (The Holy House itself is a small structure comprised of three marble-wrapped walls in the center of a large basilica.)

Since he didn’t have any more information about “The American,” Fr. Mario told me I should speak with Fr. Giuseppe Santarelli, who has been in Loreto for decades and would surely know more.

I knew Fr. Santarelli to be one of the more erudite and learned friars in Loreto. He works as the director of the “Congregazione Universale della Santa Casa” which promotes devotion to the Holy House and publishes a magazine, among other things. So I popped in and introduced myself.

I immediately sensed that Fr. Santarelli, not much taller than five feet, was a kindly gentleman. I told him that I was there to inquire about an American “penitent” who lived in Loreto back in the 1990s and prayed frequently in the Holy House.

Fr. Santarelli cut me off, “Ah sì, Thomas Zimmer si chiamava... certo che mi ricordo...” (“Ah yes, Thomas Zimmer was his name, of course I remember him...”). He went on to say that everyone in Loreto knew of him.

I told him about the “premonition” Tom had made about Donald Trump and that a video of an American priest discussing it had just gone viral on the internet. Fr. Santarelli just smiled and added that he did not know anything about that, but that him making such a prophecy was perfectly in character. I asked him what he knew about Thomas.

He said Tom was in Loreto for about ten years, he was very pious and devoted, he went to Mass every opportunity he could, he was constantly in prayer, he spoke fluent Italian and possibly other languages, and the friars held him in high regard. The only issue that any friars may have had with him is that he received Communion more than twice daily, and they asked him to refrain from doing so. He said that he knew Tom had gone back to the US before he died. He didn’t recall exactly, but he thought somewhere around 2008.

He said that the basilica had received word of his death and they had a record of it. He took me into another room where there were some archives and pulled out a ledger or two, but could not find the document he was looking for.

He then said that he had a photo of Tom, and he pulled out a hardbound book from a different shelf. It was a type of album. In it, Tom Zimmer can be seen frail and hunched over leaning on a cane sitting in front of the Holy House. He let me take a picture of it.

I asked him what he thought about Tom’s prophecy, but Fr. Santarelli said he did not him well enough to have an opinion on that. He said I should speak to a woman who worked in the bookstore next to the basilica. Her name was Michela. He said that she knew Tom quite well and even referred to her as a “faithful devotee” of his.

So I went next door, found Michela, introduced myself to her, and explained why I was there.

She said she believed Tom was a very holy man, and she used to accompany him to the Holy House from the retirement home where he lived, Oasi Ave Maria. She said he used to joke that he had lived in Mary’s House longer than St. Joseph.

During the time she knew him, she said that he taught her many prayers, including a devotion to St. Bridget that helped her during a difficult pregnancy. She also said that after he returned to the US, he wrote to her saying that he regretted his decision to leave Loreto, but that he felt strongly that he needed to return to his homeland. Without saying so, it was clear that Michela was very fond of Tom.

I told her about his premonition and what he said many years earlier about Donald Trump, and she said she did not know anything about that. I asked her if he had ever confided to her any other such premonitions or prophecies. She said he had not, but that he was particular about such things. I asked her to elaborate.

She said that sometimes he would become convinced or "fixated" on certain things. For example, during the period she knew him, there was a sensational murder case in Italy involving a woman from the northern mountain village of Cogne who was accused of murdering her three-year-old son. Though the mother was convicted in court and sentenced to sixteen years of prison for homicide, Zimmer was convinced of her innocence and would frequently say so.

My last stop was to Oasi Ave Maria retirement home, about 3 km (2 miles) from the Holy House. I introduced myself to the receptionist who called the director, Dr. Montuoro. Dr. Montuoro said that he knew Thomas well as he had lived in their home for many years. I told him about the premonition he had made some years ago, and he said it was not surprising. He said he frequently made such statements privately to people he knew, though never publicly.

I asked the doctor if Tom had ever talked about any such statements, including the premonition, to him. He said no, at least not referring to Donald Trump, but he had heard him speak in such a manner to others, though he did not elaborate.

I asked the doctor about Tom's character, and he said that Tom was well-liked by the staff, he had numerous friends and acquaintances who visited him often, spoke with him frequently, and gave him rides back and forth to the Holy House. He said that he read constantly in English, Italian and German, and his room was crammed with books. Tom was always passionate when he spoke with people about spiritual things, though he was a little "particular". I asked him to elaborate, and he said that he wore numerous religious medals around his neck and wrists, and constantly recited chaplets and prayers.

The doctor said that In the end, due to his poor physical health, his family members insisted he return to the US, though it was against his will and he regretted it. He died at his home in the US.

After initially publishing this article, I need to include one more conversation I had with another resident of Loreto, a woman named Sonia who owns a local popular restaurant called Tacabanda. I regularly take groups to her restaurant and as she has been in Loreto for a while, I asked her if she knew the American, Tom Zimmer. As soon as I mentioned his name, her eyes began to glisten as she contemplated her memories. "Oh my goodness, I sure did know him.... I could talk to you for hours about Tom Zimmer. I fed him every day and he sat right over there," she said pointing to a seat on the left side of the patio.

"He came to Loreto about the time I opened my restaurant, and one day I saw an elderly gentleman going through my trash and I asked him what he was doing. He said he was hungry, and I told him I would give him food. From that day forward, I fed Tom Zimmer lunch every day as long as he was in Loreto."

I asked what she knew about him to which she repeated that she could talk about him for days. But she said, "Let me just say this... Tom Zimmer is one of those persons who can ... how shall we say, ... see things that others cannot." I asked her to elaborate.

"I'll give you just one example," Sonia said. "There was a time when my mother, who lived with me, saw a doctor for something and he ordered some lab work. I was to go to the doctor with her to see the results the following Monday morning. The day before, I was quite anxious. When Tom saw me he told me to come to him and he looked at me and, without knowing what was going on with my mother, said, 'Sonia, do not worry about the hospital visit tomorrow, your mother will be just fine.' I was amazed. And sure enough, the next day the results all came back favorable. That was Tom Zimmer. There are numerous stories like that about him," she said.

After looking into Tom Zimmer, the “Hermit of Loreto,” I have no reason to doubt Fr. Capoverdi’s statements that Thomas Zimmer communicated to his friend that he received a “premonition” that Donald Trump would “lead America back to God.” Nevertheless, when seeking to determine whether a prophecy is true or false, the Church leaves us some criteria to guide us in discernment.

The first is to look at the recipient of the prophecy. Generally, that person should be a good and virtuous person and, additionally, the person’s temperament should be considered, as well as his or her physical and mental state.

Here, it is clear that Thomas Zimmer was prayerful and devoted, was courteous and helpful toward others in need, and appears to have been of sound mind, though his body was failing.

Next, a private revelation must not state anything contrary to publicly revealed truth. Here, too, there is nothing Scriptural or in Church teachings that would suggest that a political leader (even someone less than virtuous) cannot lead people to God; on the contrary, Scripture indicates it as a duty. (Some have even seen Trump in the figure of King Cyrus [see Ezra 1:1-11]).

Lastly, the prophecy must, obviously, come true. And on this, it is my opinion that we will have to wait and see … And even then, I will wager that whether Donald Trump “leads America back to God” will be open to interpretation…

In any case, it seems extraordinary that an elderly "hermit of Loreto" would have had such such an intuition or premonition about Donald Trump as a future "Christian" leader when, at that time, he was no model of Christian virtue or living.

Regarding the brick in St. Peter's with Donald Trump's name on it... I am assuming the Jubilee year referred to was in 2000, and it would likely take a miracle to track it down... Although "with God all things are possible".


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